Monday 2 November 2020

Adalen 31




One of my all-time favourite films is Adalen 31, Bo Widerberg’s account of the trade union and social struggles which transformed Sweden. You can view it in full on YouTube here:


Sweden used to be a very unequal country until the beginning of the 20th century. Following a large social mobilization by trade unions and the Social Democratic party, it became one of the most equal countries in history.

Commenting on Sweden, economist Thomas Piketty, writes, “Dominant groups tend to be conservative and always define the existing inequality as being natural, coming from some natural scheme or institutions or from rules that cannot be changed. But, in practice, what you see is something very different: The way inequality is organized can change very quickly …

It is impossible to talk about the major issues we face today, whether it be about privatisation of the NHS, education, social welfare, the environment, low pay, housing, racism, mental health or the police, without asking this question – cui bono, who benefits? The answer is, ‘only a very few’.

In the UK the six richest people control as much wealth as the poorest 13 million, Six billionaires have a combined fortune of £39.4 billion.

In 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculated that the richest 10% of households hold 44% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 9%.

Meanwhile, the Equality Trust estimates that about 14 million people in Britain live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute. (These figures are taken from 2017 since when the situation has worsened).

Dr Wanda Wyporska, of the Equality Trust writes. “Such a huge gap between the very rich and the vast majority of the country is dangerous. Such extreme wealth in the hands of so few people demonstrates just how broken the economic system is.”


If we look at land ownership we find that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country. Guy Shrubsole, author of “Who Owns England” writes that, “Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few … A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.”

Speaking at the UN in 2016, Jeremy Corbyn said, “The growing concentration of unaccountable wealth and power in the hands of a tiny corporate elite …has sharply increased inequality, marginalisation, insecurity and anger across the world … It’s getting worse … If we want to live in a more egalitarian society and fund our public services we cannot go on creating worse levels of inequality.”

There are powerful forces who decided that this man must go and that this country was not going to become another Sweden. Watch Adalen 31 and you will understand that, “the way inequality is organized can change very quickly.”